Archives For alignment

In the first post in this series, we made the case for better alignment between two organizational teams, in other words, we focused on the people. Your feedback suggests that we are onto something here, which should be no surprise. The fun part about alignment is that people actually need to agree (be aligned) on something, right? The smart thing to do is to be aligned around the processes required to make money (too direct?) so that everyone is clear on who is doing what (and where the customer fits as well).

Starting with Vision

(Considering CRM like a Corporate Mission)

Unfortunately, very few organizations spend the required time to define a clear CRM program. When asked, most executives admit that a well-crafted CRM program must start with a vision and a roadmap. Even still, these efforts often stall and much needed organizational synergy does not have a chance to take shape. This is, in part, is about technology. But, it is really more about defining how technology should (or should not) be used. It’s also about data (as it should be), but it is more than data. It is really about data combined with process. One without the other is like lyrics without a melody. A well-considered CRM platform will support the company vision and will play a pivotal role in determining how teams can and should work together toward engaging customers across their lifecycle.

By supporting customers through their end-to-end journey with you will increase satisfaction and long-term loyalty. This requires a focus on process. The common thread is customer experience and the customer’s perception of their own experiences (not what you think they are). In a business-to-business context, the decision cycle is a series of interactions between individuals. Each interaction results in an experience; good and bad. Good customer experiences correlate to customer loyalty. Which, of course, is the goal because loyal customers are more willing to consider another purchase from a company, are less likely to switch to a competitor, and are more likely to recommend.

Designing the Process to Support the Journey

(Thinking through the journey one interaction at a time)

Lead-to-revenue success is dependent upon well designed and executed internal processes that support the customer’s journey. Process optimization is about using technology to define efficient, nearly procedural, processes for everything from resources and campaigns to generate leads, sales methodology, and sales performance. Managing the plethora of interactions and touchpoints with customers who jump from channel-to-channel requires extra attention. Especially hard is when a customer moves from a digital channel to non-digital. This is where the salesperson needs guidance.

The front-end of the journey is the purchase decision cycle. During a business purchase decision cycle, buyers control the steps of their journey far more than the seller. This is a sea-change from times past that companies (sellers) need to carefully consider. Buyers are engaging with sellers through a multitude of digital, social, and mobile touchpoints. This dynamic changes the role of each player within your organization in a fundamental way. It alters what they must do in order to meet the needs of each buyer. To be clear, this is more than just a journey mapping exercise, this is about diving in one or two levels deeper.

Think big, Start small in Designing the Journey within your CRM Platform

When building your CRM program and considering the vision, it is important to balance two forces: 1) top line revenue growth and 2) bottom line efficiency gains. Both are critical, and the common denominators between them is business process; efficiency and effectiveness. Yes, it is possible to spend time on process improvement that will lead to both cost reduction as well as top line revenue growth, but this is hard. The secret is to design processes that mirror the customer journey and their decision cycle. If your team is able to anticipate the needs of the customer and help them along on their journey, then you can save time along the way while increasing sales velocity and reducing costs.

Benefits of Process Alignment:

Strategic (Company Focused)

  • Grow Revenue
  • Increase Market Share
  • Increase Sales Velocity
  • Campaign Optimization

Operational (Departmental Focus)

  • Increase Efficiency
  • Execution Clarity, Lead Quality
  • Decrease Cost per Sale
  • Capacity for more Campaigns

Your job in 2017 is to articulate, communicate, and evangelize the CRM vision – focus on the process, not just the data. Make a list, prioritize that list and consider the rate of change while trying not to do too much in too short a period of time. With respect to process efficiency, introduce change and transformation properly with input from other teams. Finally, keep an eye on your communications, vertically and horizontally (do more than simply manage up), doing your very best to facilitate the change.

Visionary marketers are quickly progressing beyond simple process automation for demand generation and nurturing programs. The reason is that the buying process is no longer simple. The selling/buying cycle is complex, with many players and personas. Both sales and marketing are about revenue and performance, make no mistake.  In order to accomplish sales and marketing targets (artificial or not), the marketing and sales teams need to work in concert; beyond simple (aka fluffy) collaboration. It is time to focus on people.

To be successful, your organizational selling processes need align with the customer decision cycle. The marketing team needs to transition from pure demand generation to becoming masters of customer engagement, helping the sales folks along the way. The selling process should focus on shepherding buyers through their buying journey. The strategy should not be to move a mass of buyers through a process optimized for management reporting. Instead, the strategy needs to design an efficient process optimized to take a qualified lead and make that lead an engaged, profitable customer. And, once the process is perfected…rinse and repeat.

Taking Stock of the Current State

The proliferation of customers’ digital touchpoints has accelerated requests for and the flow of information, especially in complex business-to-business decision cycles. Furthermore, organizations continue to struggle to predict where prospects will go to look for information. This unknown is causing marketers to do a bit of hair pulling. The idea of determining the right “marketing mix”’ feels a bit too much like a finger in the air strategy when trying to keep up with the vast array of possible touchpoints, along the customer journey.

Marketing and sales need to align their strategies and coordinate communications; both content and timing of message. In many organizations, the most apt descriptor for the relationship between marketing and sales is “frenemies”. Further, being in marketing is often like being an athletic trainer and never knowing if your athlete won the race. The marketing team has limited visibility into leads after they became “sales qualified” and are handed off to the sales team. This lack of insight prevents marketing decision-makers from testing campaign effectiveness or determining why something did or did not work.

Overcoming a Few (relationship) Obstacles

The relationship, at all levels, between sales and marketing is one of the most important relationships within any organization. This bond is personally critical to both the CMO and VP of Sales. The key point of friction is that marketers are focused campaigns and nurturing, while sales folks are focused on the deal and the only metric that matters is revenue. One team is looking at something built for the masses, while another is focused on an individual.

Sales and marketing processes are built with an eye on internal efficiency. However, sales processes need to be reshaped, and should also include an external focus towards the customer buying journey. This is most evident in how success is currently measured in many organizations; monthly and quarterly goals, such as: lead conversion, number of sales qualified leads and likelihood to close (by some artificial percentage).

The Path Forward

It is time to focus on positive customer outcomes and define organizational goals that support and even reshape marketing practices to drive effective customer engagement. This is about customers, not products, features or solutions. Work hard to balance pushing customers towards the next step and make sure you understand where they are in their buying journey. Once you understand where they are in the process, the right information can easily be shared. Context is a critical element within the buying journey. Customers need care and feeding – the right information, at the right time, on the right device.

We are no longer in the information age, we are in the age of customer centricity, customer focus and customer engagement. In order to succeed, the sales and marketing organizations need to match the selling process with the buyer’s journey. Yes, this is about customer acquisition and revenue generation, but it is also about lifetime value and establishing lasting company/customer relationships. Many factors have come together that extend marketing’s role much further into the selling process; even through the very end. Marketing is accountable for content creation, but they cannot do it alone, the sales team needs to come along for the ride! Marketeers and marketing leadership need to collaborate with sales folk and sales leadership to design and build a lead management process that makes sense to all players. Organizational alignment around the buyer journey is critical to success – hard stop.

After aligning goals and objectives within the team, the next logical step is to be do aligned on the processes required to support the customer journey. In the next post within the series, the focus will be on process improvement and efficiency.